Marfa Live Arts is presenting an ambitious program this weekend with four free events over the course of three days in collaboration with opera luminaries from around the world. The Fire Island Opera Festival: Marfa will be December 4-6, 2015 in locations around Marfa such as Jett’s Grill, at the Hotel Paisano, USO Marfa Visitors Center, Crowley Theater, and Dixon Water Foundation’s Mimms Ranch.
The performances in Marfa will be under the artistic direction of Edwin Cahill one of the founders of the original Fire Island Opera Festival that began in Fire Island Pines, New York. Cahill has assembled an international group of artists, singers, and musicians all traveling to Marfa to participate in the festival including visual artist Charles Mary Kubricht, soprano Francesca Mondanaro, soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra, mezzo-soprano Samantha Malk, baritone Jeremy Hirsch, and pianist Patrick Harvey.
The goal of Marfa Live Arts’ Fire Island Opera Festival: Marfa is to dust off the preconceptions some people have about opera, so that the art form is opened up to new audiences. The people of West Texas will not only make up the audiences but also be the backdrop and inspiration for the festival. Cahill is, “very enthusiastic about bringing opera to the people. To understand a community… the community’s needs, the community’s makeup is one of our goals. Then we work to create something that actually serves the community and is a celebration for the community.” Cahill is creating a program that he describes as “emotionally direct” where the audience will feel more like a participant and less like a witness. Gone will be lavish sets replaced instead with the joviality of a restaurant, the stark beauty of projected backdrops, and the dramatic vistas of the Chihuahuan Desert.
The weekend will kick off with an at Jett’s Grill at the Hotel Paisano, Friday, December 4th, 9-10pm. This lively performance will harken back to the roots and the inspirations of opera in the Florentine Renaissance as a celebratory courtly or dinner entertainment. “People have been gathering for millennia to celebrate the human condition and the human story around hearths. Hearths are the place where we make our dinner but also the place where we stay warm and the place where we would celebrate,” explains Cahill.
The following day students of all ages are invited to opera voice lessons at the USO Marfa Visitors Center, Saturday, December 5th, 11.30am-1pm.
The featured performance will be staged at the Crowley Theater on Saturday, December 5th, 8pm (doors at 7.30pm.) The program will be divided into seven tableaux each representing a different symbolic chakra. With each of the movements there will be a corresponding image created by the artist Charles Mary Kubricht projected as a backdrop behind the singers. The performance will break down the fourth wall and give performers direct address with the audience in an immersive setting. Cahill says the smaller theater experience “creates an entirely different dynamic from what you would experience in a traditional theater. It allows us to tell the stories of these extraordinary characters, often archetypes, but what we are able to find within these archetypes is a very personal truth. With that personalization you actually find universality that allows you to understand the human condition and allows you to understand your own journey as a person.”
The festival culminates with a happening that celebrates Marfa as an intersection of nature and art. Patrons are invited to participate in a hike and outdoor performance with the singers at the Dixon Water Foundation’s Mimms Ranch on Sunday, December 6th, 1-4pm. Opera singers will accompany the audience while they sing a cappella on a walk to the viewing area of the ranch (2.5 mile each way.) Once at the viewing area soprano Francesca Mondanaro will perform.
Fire Island Opera Festival: Marfa is produced by JD DiFabbio and Jennie Lyn Hamilton.
This project is generously supported by the Texas Commission on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, City of Marfa, and Marfa Live Arts supporters. The official hotel sponsor of this event is the Hotel Paisano. In-kind support provided by Jett’s Grill, Treaty Oak Distilling Co., Austin, TX, The Get Go, and Boyz 2 Men. Special thanks to Yoseff Ben-Yehuda, Vicki Barge, Joe & Lanna Duncan, Megan Wilde & Robert Potts of Dixon Water Foundation, Rob Crowley, Tim Crowley, Crowley Theater, Gory Smelley & Marfa Recording Co., Marfa Public Radio, Big Bend Sentinel, Katy Rose Elsasser, Jessica Allen, and Cathleen Schrim.